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Expert Research Survey Published on The Dramatic Increase In The UK Dog Population and Dogs Purchase

No. 267/2021

Our Ref: P18/21

To: All Branches

Dear Colleagues,

Expert Research Surveys Published on The Dramatic Increase In The UK Dog Population and Dogs Purchased During The Pandemic – Concluding that Behavioural Perspective Results are ‘Alarming.’

Two new research survey reports have been published on the dramatic UK dog population increase and on British dog owners who bought or adopted a dog during the pandemic. Pet wellness experts ‘Itch’ and ‘Burns Pet Nutrition’ have both published research data they commissioned. The Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) have also published their annual dog population data for 2021.

UK Dog Population Dramatic Increase! The proportion of people buying or adopting dogs has increased dramatically in 2020/21. The Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) has also published their annual data stating that population of dogs in the UK is now estimated at over 12 million in 2020/21. Additionally, at any given time, there are estimated to be over 100,000 stray dogs – and countless cats – without homes in the UK. With the UK population spending much more time at home during the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown and loneliness at a high, lockdown might have seemed like the perfect time to buy or adopt a dog and many people did just that and puppy sales have been at a record all-time high this last year and a half.

The Research Results The recently published research by pet wellness experts ‘Itch’ confirmed the huge increase in puppy and adopted dog numbers, stressing that the pandemic may have had some major consequences for these dogs, due to the people staying at home and lockdown restrictions meaning that many dogs have not been exercised or socialised in the way that they normally would have been and which is a crucial element of their development.

The worrying indications from this recent research are that over half of these animals have been isolated and not socialised, never having left their home and never having met other humans outside their own households. Over a third of these new dog owners now also regret buying a dog and now want to get rid of them.

Without responsible dog owners and without proper socialisation and training, these dogs can have serious behavioural problems, such as nervous behaviour, bad temperament, aggression and the risk of attacking people and other dogs is very real. There could therefore be major consequences from these dogs that have been isolated and possibly developed aggressive behaviour. This could well lead to risks and problems for CWU members – postal workers making deliveries to homes and companies as well as telecom workers visiting customer premises plus other workers, the public and children could now potentially face an increasing number of aggressive dogs in the hands of irresponsible owners, failing to control them – time will tell.

The ‘Pet Wellness Experts Itch’ Research Survey Discovered The Following:

  • 35% – More than a third of the new dog owners have never taken the dog to the park.

  • 63% – more than three in five never even left their own home.

  • 42% – two out of five pups are yet to be introduced to another dog.

  • 50% – have never met a child.

  • 51% – have never met another human outside of their own household.

  • 71% – of new owners are concerned their dog will have separation-related issues once life returns to normal.

  • 40% – had experienced regret over their decision to purchase a puppy, with many admitting they hadn’t realised the amount of work that goes into raising and caring for a dog.

  • 32% – are considering putting their dog up for adoption post-pandemic as many admit they hadn’t realised the amount of work that goes into raising and caring for a dog.

It’s extremely worrying that 63% of ‘lockdown pups’ haven’t been in an environment other than their own home yet. When it comes to socialisation, the experts warn that owners only have a small window to get it done. The socialisation period needs to be done and dusted by the 16th week or thereabouts. These ‘pandemic’ dogs will therefore need special attention. Experts warn that the two main behavioural issues ‘lockdown dogs’ will come to experience when this pandemic is over are separation related problems and behaviour issues linked to a lack of socialisation over the first few months of their young lives.

The study expert panel or researchers conclude that from a behavioural perspective, the results of this research are ‘alarming.’

The ‘Burns Pet Nutrition’ Commissioned Research Survey Found:

  • 25% – A quarter of the new dog owners are considering getting rid of their dogs because of behavioural problems and problems controlling them.

  • 33% – A third of people who bought a dog during lockdown fear their dogs will bite a stranger post lockdown as they meet new people for the first time.

Dog Rescue and Re-homing Centres and Animal Charities The RSPCA along with a large number of dog rescue and re-homing centres and animal charities across the UK are also reporting that the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions across the UK has coincided with a rush of enquiries from people wanting to surrender and get rid of their dogs because they don’t have time for them. The fear is that rescue centres across the UK could soon be at breaking point.

The RSPCA are concerned about the developing situation and are bracing themselves for a major dog welfare crisis this year as they expect to see huge numbers of dogs relinquished to rescue centres, sold online or even abandoned; with struggling charities forced to pick up the pieces. The charity stated that some new owners never thought about post-lockdown and how they’ll care for their new dog when they return to work or how they’ll continue to care for them if their personal circumstances are affected by a recession, money worries or vet bills. Quite a few dogs have been surrendered into rescue because people just can’t afford to pay for them. There are also concerns that many dogs that have got used to having their owners at home or have never experienced being by themselves may struggle to adapt once lockdown measures are eased and people begin to migrate back to work. One of the major reasons dogs are relinquished is due to behaviour problems and research suggests that separation-related anxiety may affect 85% of dogs.

DOG AWARENESS WEEK MONDAY 7 JULY – SATURDAY 10 JULY 2021 As things are preparing to return to normal and the nation returns to a life without Covid-Secure restrictions, CWU Reps should use the forthcoming RM/CWU Dog Awareness Week 7 – 10 July 2021’ to ensure that the message to members is reinforced that they must stay vigilant at all times and be aware of the dangerous dog risks. They should follow the Safe Systems of Work and the ‘AVOID’ principles at all times, take no risks and avoid any contact and interaction with dogs. Separate LTBs, website articles, RMTV items, posters, comms and WTLLs are being published on Dog Awareness Week.

Yours sincerely

Dave Joyce National Health, Safety & Environment Officer

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